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Mysterious are the ways of cricket selectors

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Rex Clementine in Mohali

In 1984, soon after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi authorized ‘Operation Blue Star’ to remove militant Sikhs from the Golden Temple here in Punjab that resulted in several Sikh deaths, Indian intelligence services pulled out Sikh guards from her security detail fearing her safety. However, ‘the Iron Lady’ one of the most respected political figures in the world, reinstated her Sikh bodyguards as she trusted them. Six months later, she paid a heavy price for the oversight as the Sikh guards gunned her down at her own residence.  In cricket too, like in life, you pay heavy prices for your mistakes.

Sri Lanka came to India with the hope of winning their maiden Tests match in this country to end a 40 year barren period. But how costly was picking fast bowler Lahiru Kumara for the first Test here in Mohali? After sending down just ten overs, Kumara returned to the pavilion and was taken for an MRI scan. The team is suspecting a hamstring tear and Kumara is likely to be ruled out of the series.

The members of the national selection panel are supposed to do their homework in picking players to represent the country. Sadly, they have done little research in selecting Kumara and as a result Sri Lanka are playing catch up on day one of the series. Excellent way to start a campaign in our efforts to end a Test win drought in India.

Kumara broke down with a hamstring injury at Pallekele in May last year during the Bangladesh Test match. Since then, he has not played even a single First Class match to prove his fitness and straight he has been brought into a play a Test match again. This is a clear indication that little thought has been put in by those making vital decisions on behalf of our cricket. The selectors’ terms are ending soon and we desperately need fresh thinking and smart thinkers.

Kumara has been barely Test match fit. Every year he breaks down in middle of a Tests match and the team has suffered severe setbacks as their bowling strength has been depleted. Kumara broke down during the Gabba Test in 2019, then again in Centurion the following year as he walked off middle of a Test match. The hat-trick was completed in 2021 at Pallekele. As if that wasn’t enough, he has done it in a fourth year in row. How come they didn’t know this? Mysterious are the ways of our selectors.

Someone needs to be held accountable for picking Kumara to play a Test match without even playing a single First Class game. In other parts of the world, players who are injured have to play considerable amount of First Class cricket or ‘A’ team cricket before returning to Test cricket. But in Sri Lanka we are treating Lahiru Kumara like Richard Hadlee. It’s as if he’s’ an indispensable member of the team.

The selectors have been groping in dark. There are many factors that have resulted in the national cricket team going through a tough phase in recent years. Selection blunders are certainly one of them.



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Karunaratne solid in Sri Lanka reply after Mushfiqur heroics

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Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne made an unbeaten 70 as Sri Lanka reached 143 for two at stumps on day two of the second Test against Bangladesh on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Oshada Fernando struck half-centuries to help the visitors end the second day of the first Test against Bangladesh on 143 for two in Dhaka on Tuesday. While Oshada Fernando fell for 57, Dimuth Karunaratne stayed unbeaten on 70 with Sri Lanka still trailing by 222 after restricting Bangladesh to 365.

The day, however, belonged to Mushfiqur Rahim, who struck an unbeaten 175, and Kasun Rajitha, who bagged his maiden five-wicket haul. Bangladesh had staged a remarkable recovery in the opening day when they went from being 24 for five to ending the day on 277 for 5.

Litton Das was the first to fall on the second day – for 141 – as the 272-run stand with Rahim came to an end. Taijul Islam resisted for a bit while Rahim kept the runs coming but Sri Lanka too kept chipping away. Asitha Fernando ended with four with Ebadot Hossain becoming the last man to fall – to a run out as Rahim was left stranded.

Both Fernando and Karunaratne came out attacking and scored 84 in the first 22 overs to take the side to tea without any loss.

Fernando successfully reviewed a caught-behind decision against him to survive a close call while Karunaratne fetched his first boundary of the innings when he flicked Hossain behind square. The start was completely in contrast to the one Bangladesh made against the new ball on the first day. With wickets not appearing to come anytime soon, Mominul Haque turned to spin as early as in the eighth over as he brought on Shakib Al Hasan and Mosaddek Hossain.

Bangladesh finally struck in the fourth over post tea when Fernando fell to a poor shot against Ebadot. The pacer could have had two in the over but the team decided against a review against Karunaratne on the second ball of the over. Karunaratne was then given another reprieve when a sharp chance was dropped by the short leg fielder off the bowling of Taijul Islam.

Three overs before close, Kusal Mendis fell lbw to Shakib al Hasan after a patient 49-ball 11as Bangladesh managed to even things out but will be well aware there’s plenty of work remaining to be done on the third day, especially on a good track.

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Kamil Mishara expelled from Dhaka after having ‘visitor’ in hotel room

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Promising wicketkeeper batsman Kamil Mishara has been expelled from the national cricket team currently involved in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka. In a statement, Sri Lanka Cricket said that Mishara, who turned 21 last month, has been withdrawn from the 18 member tour party for breach of code of conduct and he will face an inquiry after arriving in the country.

Players and coaching staff in Dhaka are in what’s called a ‘semi-bubble’ and although their movements are not as strict as what they used to be during the height of the pandemic, there are certain protocols that the players need to follow.

A cricket official told The Island that Bangladesh authorities had complained about the player taking a ‘visitor’ to his hotel room, an area considered out of bounds for outsiders. The incident had been recorded in CCTV footage. The Island learns that the team management in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s senior cricketers too had expressed their disappointment at the distraction during a keenly contested Test series.

There was anger and disappointment among cricket officials as only last year they had to deal with three players including the team’s vice-captain breaching the bio-security bubble during their tour of UK. The three players were withdrawn immediately and were handed heavy penalties and suspensions although the suspensions were later reduced. A cricket official told The Island that some players had not learned their lessons and Mishara will face sanctions.

Ironically, Mishara had been drafted into the squad to keep regular wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella on his toes. Dickwella has faced his share of disciplinary issues in recent months.

Mishara has a prior having been handed a one year suspended sentence and a one match ban after being found drunk along with some of his under-19 team mates during the Asia Cup in 2019.

An immensely talented young player, Mishara made his debut against Australia at the MCG early this year during the T-20 series. He also was part of the side that toured India in February and was expected to be retained for the upcoming home series against Australia and possibly for the ICC T-20 World Cup as the selectors had backed quite a few young players.

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Liton, Mushfiqur slam centuries to put pressure back on Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka's Kasun Rajitha (L) celebrates after dismissing Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan (R) during the first day of the second Test cricket match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on May 23, 2022.

Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das hit centuries and shared a record stand to turn the tide for Bangladesh in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Dhaka on Monday after a disastrous start.

At stumps, Liton was unbeaten with a career-best 135 with Mushfiqur on 115, his second hundred in as many innings, as Bangladesh reached 277 for five on the first day after electing to bat at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. The two added 253 in their unbroken sixth-wicket stand after Sri Lanka’s pace bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Asitha Fernando shared five wickets between them to leave Bangladesh in tatters on 24 for five in a chaotic first hour of play.

Mushfiqur played a part in Bangladesh’s previous highest sixth-wicket stand when he shared 191 runs with Mohammad Ashraful, also against Sri Lanka at Galle in 2013. Liton brought his third Test hundred off 149 balls owing to a misfield, which yielded Bangladesh five runs.

Mushfiqur, who also scored 105 runs in the drawn first Test in Chittagong, then reached his ninth Test hundred off 218 balls.

The two gave the only chance to Sri Lanka during their partnership for over two sessions when Liton lofted a catch on 47 off Fernando. But substitute fielder Kamindu Mendis dropped the chance at backward square leg.

Kamindu came to the field after Kusal Mendis left for hospital after complaining of chest pain. Mendis was cleared later to continue playing as his physical condition was found not to be serious, according to Sri Lankan management.

The host made a nightmarish start to the game as Kasun Rajitha bowled opener Mahmudul Hasan for a duck with the second ball of the morning. Fellow opener Tamim Iqbal, who scored a century in the drawn first Test in Chittagong, also fell for a duck as he sent a leading edge off Fernando in the next over to be caught brilliantly by Jayawickrama at backward point.

Skipper Mominul Haque tried to settle the nerves with two fours, including one off the first ball he faced, but soon edged Fernando to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella when on nine. Rajitha then found a big gap between the bat and pad of Najmul Hossain, sending his middle-stump cart-wheeling with an inswinger as the left-hander was dismissed for eight. Rajitha delivered a body blow next ball to trap Shakib Al Hasan leg-before for a first-ball duck, leaving the Bangladesh batting line-up in disarray.

Rajitha finished the day with three for 43 while Fernando claimed two for 80.

Sri Lanka had rewarded Rajitha with a place in the eleven after he impressed in Chittagong by taking four for 60, playing the match as a concussion substitute for Vishwa Fernando. He was one of their two changes, with Jayawickrama replacing Lasith Embuldeniya.

Bangladesh made two changes from the first Test as Mosaddek Hossain and Ebadot Hossain replaced the injured Nayeem Hasan and Shoriful Islam.

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